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Ron, a few questions:

Started by Spooky Fanboy, July 05, 2008, 03:19:33 PM

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Spooky Fanboy

To preface this, I've read two installments of your recent interview with Rafael Chandler. It got me thinking, and I'm curious about a few things.

1) Knowing what you know now, with all the theory that's been hashed out and the basic blueprints for your vision of what roleplaying could be and perhaps should be (at least as a viable alternative to what was "state of the art" back when you started), if you had to write Sorcerer all over again for the first time, what would you do differently?

2) How is Spione (as an example of your current work) different from Sorcerer (barring obvious thematic and mechanical differences), and what is the same? What lessons from playing and perhaps studying Spione could be learned and used to get more mileage out of Sorcerer or Trollbabe or even Elfs? I'm asking for your opinion on this; I do not happen to have Spione in front of me, and I'm curious to see how you feel your vision has evolved over the course of your career. This isn't limited to actual game design, by the way. I'm also asking about things like layout choices, marketing, and so on.

3) What would you like people who are interested in writing...I want to use the word 'supplements', but perhaps 'extensions' is a better word...for Sorcerer or Trollbabe to keep in mind as they are writing them? I mean things like The Dictionary of Mu, which is a setting, but also makes minor but necessary extensions to focus the feel of the the world and the choices made in that environment, as well as, say, a theoretical game about "Demons" being things like countries or corporations of whom the Sorcerer is an influential figure, or a game about religion, and have to possibly modify a few things in order to make the mechanics work? (Perhaps this same question could be asked of Spione as it gets more notice in the public conscience.) I mean this from the perspective of looking back and seeing the reactions to your work and how your understanding of your games has evolved.

If you need me to clarify what I'm asking, I'll certainly do that. 
Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!

Ron Edwards

Hi Carl,


I will try to answer straightforwardly, but your first question carries some philosophical contradictions. If I were to posit "myself as I am now" without Sorcerer having been my primary creative project from 1990-2004, then I'd have to replace it with some other project or experience which would have been so similar that I don't think I'd be interested in writing Sorcerer now. I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm saying that I don't think I can answer it except for a few minor points.

1. Regarding the system and game-concept itself, I think Sorcerer is still one step beyond cutting-edge. Most people who've played it learned something important from it, but the game has more to impart than little "one things" per group.

Ralph suggested to me a bit back that he thinks I'd have handled damage differently, without the multiplication charts, but I'm not so sure about that.

Regarding text and presentation, I imagine that plenty of phrases or aspects of organization would be different, not only due to the production of a specialized vocabulary, but also due to the fact that anything one does ten years later in life can't possibly be the way it would have been done ten years earlier.

I can think of a couple glaring bits. Certainly complex conflict is what I was trying to write about under the label of "combat," and I could find lots more - most of which I've written about here anyway.

Here's my point about this, though: I am absolutely sure that no matter how pristine and sparkling my prose or presentation might be, I would still receive the same, ongoing posts or emails claiming that this-or-that isn't clear, and and still be pointing to the place where the text explains exactly what the person is saying isn't there. Or similarly, the posts or emails expressing shock and indignation about some aspect of role-playing that I'm violating, which turn into dialogue that eventually expresses the correspondent's frustration with the very feature that he wrote me to defend. The content and mechanics of the book and game generate those reactions and outcomes, not its text and presentation.


This project was not a step away from Sorcerer alone, but from any and all role-playing I'd ever done, seen done, read about, or heard about. It wasn't just a step away from a particular preference or style, but away from the hobby, independent design scene and all. I'm still not especially interested in how people perceive it from within the parameters of the hobby culture, although I certainly am happy when fellow members of that culture decide they're interested and come take a look.

I'm not alone in taking that step. I suggest that carry, Grey Ranks, and Steal Away Jordan are all independent examples of the same thing, as is the in-design game Black Cadillacs. What that step's significance might be, I can't say. I know its significance for me.

Therefore I can't say that Spione (conceiving, designing, playing, publishing, promoting) provides insights toward Sorcerer or any of my other games - to me, that's looking backwards, or rather, reversing cause-and-effect.

There is no value judgment in what I'm saying. By "backwards" I don't mean primitive or developmentally stunted. I'm not saying I don't love role-playing or any of the games I've designed in that context - I do, and I still play them, I still design them, and I'm still doing the Forge and the Forge booth. But Spione and other projects I'd like to do in that vein are "over here instead." This is where the arrows of previous work have pointed, or have led me to, and not the other way.

This concept applies fully to all the economic, physical design, marketing, and similar aspects of the project as well. I'd never try to market Sorcerer the way I'm (slowly) doing for Spione - it makes no sense.

If you're interested in discussing any of this further, I'm afraid it isn't going to make any sense at all without the book in hand. I am actually pretty sure that what I've said already doesn't make any sense without it either, so I'd rather play catch-up on that score rather than try to continue. If you do buy it, then please follow up at the Spione website, where the questions' context would probably be more clear for both of us.


"Extensions" is a good term for them. Let's see, you're asking me what I'd like other people to "keep in mind" when developing such things ...

Let's go back in time a bit, say to 1998 when the first PDF version was being sold. I made some mistakes with what I called the mini-supplement program. My first mistake was effectively appointing myself Chief Editor over their content, including approval authority, editing, and anything else. My second, related mistake was effectively appointing myself Chief Publisher by insisting they be sold only in PDF and within a restricted price range.

These mistakes were utterly counter to my own values, and unsurprisingly, ended up being no good at all to anyone. Some people like Jared simply disobeyed, to their credit. Others, especially Scott Knipe, were harmed by the constraints and that's something I bear responsibility for.

I still love the idea of people doing extensions of Sorcerer, but the whole "Ron's mini-supplement program" should be abandoned and a general invitation to publish your own Sorcerer supplement/extension should be made available. Much more toward like what Clinton's done with The Shadow of Yesterday, but not that complete - probably not including the permission to use chunks of text, for example. I'd still put up links and stuff for the publications, of course.

Given all that, then asking me what I'd like them to "keep in mind" seems to me like refining the mistake rather than correcting it. Given what I'm saying here, I would have nothing to say. The whole point would be to find out what they say, instead of imposing myself on their work so much.

I do have some advice for people who want to do it, which is to play the game a lot first. Not too profound, really.

Best, Ron

Spooky Fanboy

Thanks, Ron.

I think you have answered all of my questions. I was initially provoked by the curiosity I felt from your interview with Rafael Chandler. And I was curious if you'd any desire to look back on your career as an RPG designer/theorist and had any thoughts about the directions taken, and particularly if you've seen a common thread tying them together.

If I'm reading your answer right, Spione is a project that is so different from anything else you've tried that there's not much similarity in any of it's processes between it and Trollbabe, Sorcerer, or Elfs. That's pretty intriguing, and I'll have to save up some money and check it out.

As for your advice on Sorcerer/Trollbabe extensions, I believe I see what you're trying to say.

I wasn't trying to confuse you with my hypothetical situation regarding Sorcerer. You've answered the question as honestly as you could, and I can see where you're coming from. I was trying to phrase the questions in such a way as to acknowledge up front that a rewrite was in reality impossible, that I knew it was impossible, and that even acknowledging that, if you had any thoughts about what you might have done differently, had you known then what you do now. I do agree that there would still be questions; it has taken awhile for me to truly wrap my head around the Currency system, and I was one of the people there at the beginning.

Anyway, I'm happy with the answers I got. Thank you for your time.

Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!